Farmington River Report 6/14/17: Confidence catches fish, Sulphur City

I guided Keith on Thursday and his goal was to leave the river with more confidence than when he arrived. I think we accomplished that. Where to fish, how to fish, which flies to use — keeping it simple is usually a good place to start. So we headed of to a spot below the permanent TMA for some nymphing basics. Spring mornings are almost always a good time to nymph. We did both short line and indicator, and on this day indicator was the more successful method. We took fish on both the dropper (size 18 2x short Starling and Herl) and the point fly (BH Squirrel and Ginger).

Next up: Wet Flies 101. I was disappointed with this second location, downriver from the first. Our drifts were good and we covered some fishy water, but you can’t catch what doesn’t want to eat — or what isn’t there — so we headed off to trout central, AKA the permanent TMA.

Good call. As we worked our way downstream into some slower water, we saw active feeders. Even though the water was better suited for dries, properly presented soft hackles can be deadly during a hatch. Caddis was the bug, and we had two caddis patterns on our team of three (S&G top dropper and Winter Brown on point) with a dark fly (Drowned Ant) in the middle.  It wasn’t long before Keith’s line came tight to beautiful brown.

Keith shows us how it’s done, much to the delight of his instructor.

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We took fish on all three flies, but only one on the dark middle fly. We got nearly into double-digit numbers, a mix of stocked browns, rainbows, a Survivor Strain brown and a few wild ones. I was intrigued by the parr marks on this rainbow. He wasn’t all that delicate, though, putting on an impressive aerial display during the fight.

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Finally, I fished from 5pm-7:15pm way downstream in an area that got torched by last summer’s drought. I wanted to see what the Sulphur hatch was like, and, more important, was anything taking advantage of it? Good news, bad news: tremendous sulphur hatch (I’d give it an 8 out of 10) with swarms of yellow bugs everywhere. Bad news: like my experience in April in the same area with Hendrickson, precious little surface activity. Sure, there were a few trout that were feeding, but the rises were infrequent and seemingly random. I rose three trout but failed to get a hookset. Also witnessed were caddis, tiny BWOs, and a few Isonychia. I think we’ll have to wait another year or two for the trout to re-establish.

Hello, old friend. Always happy to see your face.

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Wet Fly 101 class, articles, and guiding trips

Busy as usual, but I think there’s some fishing light at the end of the tunnel! Sulphurs, grass shrimp, Block Island sand eels, evening spinner falls, walking some snotty water swinging wets….these are all on my mind right now. And tying. I don’t know about you, but my fly boxes need some serious attention. But first…

Sunday, July 9, 9am-2pm, Wet Flies 101 class through Upcountry Sportfishing. This is both a stream side and an on-the-water class. It’s intended as a basic intro to wet fly fishing. Given our early season water levels, I think this will be a dynamite summer for wets on the Farmington. If you want to catch more fish, the art of the wet fly is a skill set you should have. Please note: you cannot sign up for this class here. You have to do it through UpCountry. For more information, click this link.

Taken on a soft-hackled March Brown on a hot August afternoon. The lengthwise opening of the net is 17″. As your GPS would say, “recalculating…”

20" brown on a soft-hackle

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I recently saw the galley proof for my summer smallmouth article. It’s titled, “Hot Bronze,” and you can read it in the August 2017 issue of Field & StreamMultiple articles coming up in American Angler, too. And if you’re in charge of booking speakers for your club, some new presentations as well.

Finally, if you’re planning on doing a guide trip with me, its a good idea to get out the calendar and pick some date options. Summer is as time-space continuum-challenging for me as the school year, with multiple sports camps/tournaments for the boys and me mostly doing pickup/dropoff. For more information on my philosophy, rates, and contact info, click here.

And as always, thanks for reading currentseams.

 

 

The Staccato Symphony, performed by an Acre of Feeding Bass

Another late (or early) bedtime Sunday morning — 3:15am if you’re keeping score — but well worth it. I arrived at the mark with the tide still motoring in, and amused myself by sitting on a rock in the dark, absorbing the sights and the sounds of an estuary at night, with a Gispert Churchill to keep me company. I wasn’t hearing the sounds of feeding bass, but I could see plenty of bait meandering along the shoreline. So I tossed my three fly rig (soft-hackled shrimp on top dropper, Orange Ruthless in the middle, foam-back floating shrimp pattern on point) into the flow and managed a scrappy schoolie.

Ten minutes after the turn of the tide, I began to think that maybe I had made a mistake. Or that that cold front had knocked the feed off. Or the fish were simply elsewhere. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Moments later, the salt pond was lit up like night sky on the Fourth of July. Pop! Pop! Pop! There were bass everywhere, and the sharp reports of their feeding made it sound like I was at a rifle range. This went on for the better part of an hour.

These fish weren’t easy to catch, but that’s what made it so enjoyable — kind of like when you finally figure out that hatch and you fool that brown who’s been refusing your best efforts. I got them on the swing, the dangle, and especially by sight casting to the rise rings of active feeders.

Trout fishing for stripers with small flies and a floating line? Yes, please.

It would be safe to say that this fly was a popular choice that night. A re-palmer and it will be good to ride again. Tied on a #8 Atlantic salmon hook.

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Farmington River Report 6/1/17: Heavy water experiments

The rains that came through last night boosted the flows in the permanent TMA to over 500cfs. But I wasn’t going to pass up my first good opportunity in weeks to fish the Farmington.

I was dismayed to see four cars in the lot, then delighted when I walked through the woods and there was no one in the main pool. So I waded in and had at it. Nymphing was the method, 54 was the water temp, caddis was the hero hatch, and the weather was New England crazy. I fished in brilliant sunshine, mixed clouds, dead calm, gusty wind, and a couple of steady downpours — all from 11:15am to 2:30pm. While I had to work for them, I got into a double-digit number of trout. Here are some particulars.

Things started slowly. My fish came in bunches, leading me to believe that their feeding activity was matching the hatch cycle. Some dry fly guys told me later that they had the same experience.

I found all my fish in the hot water, mostly at the heads of pools. If it was raging and boiling, it was good. No luck along the softer edges, which surprised me in this many cfs. Shows you what I know.

Intriguing markings and dramatic dots on this one.

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The rigging was drop shot with two BB shot, two fly system. Fished three patterns: a size 14 Squirrel and Ginger nymph on point, and a size 18 Starling and Herl or a size 14 Hare and Copper on the dropper.  All caught fish.

I did some indicator nymphing (and caught fish), but the rest of the time I went with the short line/tight line approach. I felt the indicator was moving along too quickly in the heavier flows, and the wind was affecting its drift as well. That being said, the indicator did me proud when I had to reach some far-off currents I couldn’t wade close to.

Almost all my tight line hooksets today were tactile; that is, I felt the strike before I saw the sighter lag behind vertical. Still trying to dial in to the straight line presentation and strike detection thing. More experiments necessary. (Dang.)

Fish don’t lie. They’ll always tell you when you get it right.

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The unimportance of casting

The casting discussions are seemingly endless: distance, tight loops, line speed, hauling, leader turnover, and more distance. Not that I’m surprised. But I do find it fascinating, especially since you rarely see these topics brought up on trout fishing boards.

I never wanted to be a great caster. I did, however, aspire to be a great angler. Maybe some day I’ll get there. In the meantime, I’ll just follow Ray Bergman’s advice on fishing, and let the casting take care of itself.

Striper fly anglers have a unique obsession with casting distance. Funny thing! My biggest striper this spring, best measured with a scale or a yardstick, came on a 30-foot cast that I pooched out in front of me. All I had to do was wait for the current to deliver the fly to her waiting mouth.

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Cape Stripahs

Up at the Cape this weekend for my son’s soccer tournament, but they don’t play at night…so I did.

Saturday I hit two spots. The tides weren’t ideal, but I wanted to see how one in particular looked on the incoming (I’ve only fished it on the outgoing). Last year, same time, it was lit up like a Christmas tree. This year it was dead as Julius Caesar. I gave it 45 minutes of due diligence, then headed to a second mark. First cast, my line got all discombobulated. After I straighten things out, I pulled it in for a re-cast. Wait. Was that pressure a fish or some weeds? The answer was fish. I proceeded to get into a batch of micro bass, and one of their bigger brothers. Fished a three fly team and took fish on all three flies. Both the air and the water on the incoming tide were cold! I wished I’d brought my neoprenes.

Sunday met old UK pal Mike who got the outing off to a proper start by taking a bass on his first cast. We had schools of stripers, mostly 1-2 year-olds, come through in waves, so the action was either red hot or non-existent. There were a few larger — by that I mean sub-20″ers — in the mix. To cull these pipsqueaks, I tied on a 7″ Eel Punt on a 3/0 hook. (I should mention at this point that I’d forgotten my headlamp, so I did all this dancing in the dark). So while I still had bumps, I was spared the tedium of stripping in trout-sized bass. Meantime, the Meatballs showed up with their 40,000 watt headlamps lighting up the ocean, and — my personal favorite — into my face when I was playing a fish. I’d like to tell you I was sorry when they left, but that would be a lie.

I finally connected with a sub-legal fish that had aspirations of going on the reel, but I had other plans. A catch, a photo, a release, and a good way to end the festivities.

I haven’t fished an Eel Punt in years. This striper reminded me why it’s such a good fly, especially on the swing on a dark, mysterious night.

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Small Stream Color, or: A little something to get us through today’s gray

Snuck out for a couple hours the other day on Ye Olde Brook Trout Emporium. The catching was a bit on the slow side, but the fishing was tremendous. At last! Freedom!  I took them on the dry (size 16 Improved Sofa Pillow) and the wet (size 20 Snipe and Purple) dropper. Water was 56 degrees and medium low. Bugs everywhere: midges, some large dark un-IDed mayfly spinners (mahogany duns?), caddis, and my first confirmed sulphur sightings of 2017.

Sky of blue, sea of green. The canopy is filling in, and the wooded wetlands are in their glory. 

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While I was disappointed in the number of fish that wanted to play, I did see more actively feeding char on this stream — especially in slower, deeper water — than ever before. Those that were coming up for the naturals were also quite willing to inspect my dry, even though it was substantially larger than what was hatching. This fellow pounced when the opportunity presented itself. You can see the beginnings of a kype.

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Ray Bergman, you magnificent bastard, I read your book! This brookie was quietly sipping, forming delicate rise rings in some glassy water. I approached from upstream, made a long cast, and got him on the wet dropper by raising the rod tip and doing a hand-twist retrieve. By far the hardest hit of the day.

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